FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 7, 2005

Day 7- Hand me that phillips head...

Well, this is what I get for shooting my mouth off yesterday- "Oh yeah, all these movies are so great, blah blah blah, face rocked off, blah blah blah"...I finally got a turkey.

In the comments section for Body Bags (posted a few days back), there's a little conversation going on about the great horror directors of days gone by, and why it seems they sometimes lose their touch. I got more fuel to add to that fire with today's feature, Toolbox Murders (that's right, no "the"), directed by Tobe Hooper. Tobe Hooper! He of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre! He of Poltergeist! The Funhouse! Well, this latest offering can't hold a candle to those earlier efforts.

It's not a strict remake of the 1978 movie of the same name- it's really one of these new-fangled "re-imaginings". The original Toolbox Murders represents the slasher genre at its worst: it's a misogynist, poorly acted, plotless piece of exploitation. This new version only borrows a few elements from the old: the title, the apartment complex setting, and the killer with a penchant for a mask and weapons bought at Home Depot.

Despite the general crappiness of the original, if Hooper had kept his version similar and simply gone the slasher route it might've worked. As it stands, this movie suffers from the all-too-prevalent trend in modern horror: let's put as many ideas in this as we can! Movies like that just get more and more ludicrous all the way to the end, at which point you say "If they had just stuck to that plot idea introduced in the first 10 minutes, it would've been OK.". I'm looking at YOU, Jeepers Creepers.

Young couple Nell and Steven Barrows (Angela Bettis and Brent Roam) move into the historic Lusman Arms apartments, affordable because they're undergoing renovations. Soon tenants begin to disappear, and so Nell gets her Jessica Fletcher on and deciphers pagan symbols to figure out the building's terrible secrets...that the fella who built it soooo long ago was a "coffin baby"- he crawled out of his mother's womb after she was dead and buried!- and has been surviving in a townhouse hidden inside the building for years and years. He's been racking up a huge body count, because he needs to inject himself with blood to survive. Uh huh. My kingdom for a simple, straightforward Jason Voorhees.

Yeah, that was the name "Angela Bettis" you read earlier, who was wonderful in the horrific, quirky, love-it-or-hate-it May. Here, she's underutilised and given the thankless task of making the audience care about what's largely an unlikable character. Actually, that pretty much applies to the entire cast: the characters are all over-the-top and awful. In fact, there were a couple that grated so badly that every time they came on screen I hurt a little inside. And any movie that squanders away appearances by Sheri Moon and Juliet Landau gets BOTH my middle fingers shoved at it.

I could go on about all the things I didn't like about this movie: the poorly edited jump scares, the soundtrack that steamrolls everything else to the point where the screaming is sometimes muffled (don't forget the obligatory techno/metal music blaring over the end credits)...wait, I was starting to go on, wasn't I? I'm not a big a gore fan, but if you are, this movie may appeal to you. Victims are dispatched in gruesome fashion with a variety of tools (go figure), including a claw hammer, nail gun, power drill, circular saw, and a bottle o' lye.

Overall, though, I just gotta say- Tobe, how could you? How could you ruin my winning streak like this? Oh, but you'll pay for this. You'll pay dearly, Hooper, when I give this middling effort 5 out of 10 Bob Vilas!


Des said...

True...I agree with most of that. Especially the criminal under-utilisation of Angela Bettis.

The version I got (in the UK, not sure if it's the same here) had a second DVD with the documentary An American Nightmare. Fantastic. Best Doc I've seen on the genre.

Stacie Ponder said...

That's a great documentary! I was planning a post on it a while back. I haven't seen many docs on the genre, really, but it was fantastic.

Anonymous said...

This has been sitting on the pile of DVDs I bought a few weeks back, unopened and waiting for an opportunity to watch. Sounds like I'll be skipping the film and going straight for the documentary

Anonymous said...

I loved this movie. I thought it worked on a very primal level towards the end and is definitely one of Hooper's best in a long, long time. Can't agree on everything, eh?

Amanda By Night

Fatman said...

I don't often like re-makes of horror films. I know a lot of scenarios (e.g. masked intruders stalking babysitters) and situations ('Hand me mah shotgun Mavis. Looks lahk anuthuh zombie invasion again!') are repeated over and over in the horror genre but we can surely add a few more things to these films right? Why watch another version of House on Haunted Hill? Make something new.
Another guy-Ash Karreau-who writes reviews on his blog bemoaned the lacklustre efforts of horror films in general, and Toolbox Murders especially.

Quote; "The remake, however, is just inconsequential, whereas the original film is a bit of a black eye for horror. I firmly believe that the genre never gets its due, deserving much more respect than it receives. There are just as many crappy comedies as there are crappy horror films, and yet most people would be much more comfortable admitting they like an American Pie movie than to cop to owning a tape of Night of the Living Dead, or a sixth generation dub of an Asian snuff film featuring a Taiwanese woman peeling off her own skin at gunpoint."

Nuff said